|Plans to roll out Johannesburg’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to other areas should not be seen as a way to wipe out the taxi industry, officials said today.
“There’s still ongoing engagement on the dynamics on how they [taxi operators] can get a fair value out of this,” said the BRT’s safety and security spokesman Conel Mackay at a transport indaba in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Refusing to comment further on the negotiations, Mackay said there was a possibility that the taxi operators could form a concession to run the Bus Operating Company.
He said they were optimistic that talks would be concluded by next February.
The indaba provided a platform for the City of Johannesburg and others with interests in transport to give feedback on the first three months of the Rea Vaya BRT operations which launched in Johannesburg at the beginning of September.
Mackay told the indaba that it was a major success that a total of 75 former taxi drivers had become professional bus drivers since BRT’s launch. There had initially been concerns about driver discipline, but all the drivers had been managing “very well”, he said.
An organisation representing the commuters said the system had made life easier for them compared to when they used taxis.
However, they had feared for their lives after two buses were attacked in Soweto in the first week the BRT started running.
Meanwhile, a New-York based transport consultant who assisted the city in the planning of Johannesburg’s BRT system, said it was “world class” with “the cleanest BRT buses in the world”.
Walter Hook, the executive director of the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, emphasised the importance of creating a public space and eliminating “car boom” in cities.
The BRT has encountered some teething problems, including a shortage of tickets when stations did not order them in time and with the training of staff.
Electricity problems with City Power were now sorted out and cuts only occurred “one percent of the time” .
Another problem discussed at the indaba was taxi drivers and motorists who parked their vehicles on the BRT routes.
“There’s also been instances where taxi drivers leave their taxis parked on the route,” said Jeff Ngcobo, BRT operations manager.
The indaba also noted that it was necessary to have an integrated operation of all modes of transport during the soccer World Cup in 2010.